How the Costa Concordia Sank

The Costa Concordia sank nearly a week ago, but the questions of exactly how and why she sank will likely linger for much longer.

The BBC has had extensive coverage of the story, including this page that details what is known about how and why the cruise ship sank.

How She Sank
How She Sank

School’s Out For Ever

While on holiday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced a sweeping series of school closures and consolidations in an effort to create a smaller and more sustainable school system. As I spent my earlier years of education in the parochial system I had more than a passing interest in the story.

The Philadelphia Inquirer mapped out the changes, a cropping of which is below. As one can easily see, the bulk of the cuts came in the city itself and the suburbs in Montgomery County. The more distant, read wealthier, suburbs fared much better. Chester County, for example had a total of only two closings. Bucks only five.

Cropping of the School Closures in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Cropping of the School Closures in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Credit for the map goes to John Duchneskie and Cynthia Greer.

Earth-sized Planets

Kepler 20 System
Kepler 20 System

We have finally discovered two planets outside our solar system that have roughly the same size as Earth. Unfortunately, unless we learn that life can exist in the form of fire beings, these two planets are too close to their sun to support life. Their temperatures are in the hundreds and thousands of degrees. A bit balmy.

The New York Times has a small but interesting chart that fits inline with its article, at least on its website—presumably it fits similarly in its printed form. Seen here to the left, it plots the orbital distance of the planets that are known to orbit the star Kepler 20. (Unfortunately these planets have less than creative names: Kepler 20e and Kepler 20f.) The other planets are gas giants.

The use of scale of orbits and the gap between 20f and 20d allow for an annotation within the image. And then with a little bit more vertical space, to drive hom the point of these new planets’ nearness to their sun, the orbit of Mercury, the planet nearest our sun, is plotted for comparison.

Killed in Action in Iraq, State by State

The Iraq War is over. And now it is time to reflect on what we have gained and what we have lost. This map by the Guardian details the number of soldiers killed in action in Iraq. (Other options include total wounded, killed by non-hostile, &c.)

Killed in Action in Iraq by State
Killed in Action in Iraq by State

Unfortunately, I call it a ‘no kidding’ type of map. The data, accessible via the Guardian here, corresponds nicely with a list of states by total population. Of the top ten countries in KIA, only Virginia is not among the top ten in population; it is 12th. The country thus not in the top ten in KIA, but in population is North Carolina. It’s rank in terms of KIA? 11th.

The data is interesting and worth depicting if we are to reflect. But, perhaps a more suitable visualisation could have been chosen.

On a personal note, these Google Maps overlays are annoying when, in the cases of, e.g., Wisconsin and Massachusetts, the shapes are incorrect. Perhaps coastlines are not as easy as states with ‘straight lines’ for boders, but we would do well to try and make irregular coasts at least somewhat correct.

Exporting the Sun

Plans are afoot to harness the power of the sun in the deserts across northern Africa. The electricity generated in Morocco is planned to turn on light switches in Madrid and throughout the rest of Europe.

The Guardian created a map to show how the solar facilities could be connected to each other and to other renewable power sources in Europe—from Icelandic geothermal plants to North Sea wind turbines to Alpine hydroelectric plants.

Renewable Power Map
Renewable Power Map

Credit for the piece goes to Christine Oliver.

The Bottom of the Ocean (and the World)

There have been a lot of interesting maps of late that map out continents and planets, but today is one for the sea—the bottom of which we know less about than the surface of the Moon.

According to a story covered by the BBC, the US State Department backed an exploration of the Mariana Trench, a subduction zone where one oceanic plate is slipping underneath another. The result is an inward-folding crumple and then a bunch of volcanos—the Mariana Islands. The US wants to know if it can extend its economic zone further, but can only do so if certain geographic conditions are met. Hence, the study.

The topography of the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep
The topography of the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep is the deepest, lowest point on the planet. Though one can argue that because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, points in the Arctic and Antarctic may yet be deeper/nearer the centre of the Earth. If one were to Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet, inside the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep, the very tip of the mountain would still not break the surface of the ocean.

Returning to Fukushima. Someday.

Earlier this year, the earthquake and tsunami that damaged Japan also brought about failures in a nuclear plant at Fukushima. As we near the end of the year, the New York Times reports on how it might take many years for those who had to—or chose to—move away to return to a safe Fukushima.

Radioactive Contamination
Radioactive Contamination

Technology Today

Technology changes and changes rapidly. The United States led the way with cabled phone networks. Now, countries in Africa are skipping landlines and moving straight to mobile phones. The New York Times has an piece on the changes in technology and accompanies that piece with small multiples of choropleth maps that showcase different technologies and their prevalence.

Mobile Phone Subscriptions
Mobile Phone Subscriptions

What is interesting about these maps is that the Times eschewed the conventional Mercator or Robinson map projections and went with a slightly more unusual layout. But, a layout that saves some space by its contortion of the world’s oceans. Was their reason spatial or something more about maintaining consistent area? I would be curious to see the piece in print to see if it needed to fit a narrow column.

All in all, an interesting set of maps.

Campaign Ad Spends

I don’t know about you, but to me, it’s beginning to look a lot like campaign season. At least from what I read on the internet. Because, according to this interactive piece by the Washington Post, there has been little local campaign spending on ads in the Chicago television market.

Mad Spending
Mad Spending

By clicking on the left, you are able to see the spending amounts and spending places of ads by both personal campaigns and interest groups. For national ad campaigns, there is a small outline of the continental US in the bottom left.

Above the map you have some facts about the spending and spending over time and a curious bit about whether the ads are positive or negative. Already if you move from the beginning to now, you can watch the positive ad number slip.

China’s Secret Nuclear Missile Tunnel System

I do not often get the chance to post illustrative works. But, the Washington Post reported on the work of Georgetown students that shows how China has tunneled thousands of miles of, well, tunnels to create a secret labyrinth for their nuclear weapons programme. The result is that instead of the few dozen warheads that China is thought to have, they could have many more times that. They included this graphic, cropping below, with the article.

Cropping of a Nuclear Tunnel
Cropping of a Nuclear Tunnel